And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up:…
In speaking about the subjective work of Christianity Christ mentions only the initiatory acts in the new birth. In speaking of its objective work He introduces us to the central act. Around this very fact objective Christianity clusters.
I. THE LIFTING UP OF THE SON OF MAN. Our Lord dealt much in illustrations. In this chapter He borrows one from human life — birth; one from nature — wind; and now one from the Scriptures, showing how rich the historical events of the Old Testament were in types and symbols. This illustration is intended to set forth —
1. The great fact that Christ was to be a healing medium.
2. The symbol of the devil is made the symbol of his Destroyer in the very act of bruising his head.
3. The virtue by which He should become the healing medium (John 12:32, 33).
4. Christ's moral as well as physical exaltation (see John 13:31, 32) glorifying both Himself and His Father.
5. Christ's transcendent greatness of mind, enabling Him to take cognizance only of the glory, and not of the degradation, of His suffering.
6. His "lifting up" by many tongues made eloquent by a love kindled from Calvary.
II. THIS GREAT TRANSACTION HAD FOR ITS OBJECT THE SALVATION OF MEN.
1. This salvation is negative and positive — meeting the twofold nature of sin, which is —
(1) Positive — entailing misery;
(2) punitive — depriving of positive blessedness. Christ delivers from the first — "shall not perish" and restores the second — "eternal life."
2. This perishing is not annihilation, but a deprivation of vital relation to God; eternal life is a restoration of this relation.
3. These effects are the results of Christ's "lifting up," and connect the objective transaction with the subjective effects, and goes back to the matter of the new birth, which is organically connected with eternal life.
III. THE DIVINE LOVE, AS AN IMPELLING MOTIVE, WAS EQUAL TO THIS (ver. 6). Here, then, are five links in the wondrous chain.
(1) Men are delivered from the perdition of sin, and restored to the Divine life.
(2) This is secured by the lifting up of the Son of Man.
(3) But this Son of Man is the only-begotten Son of God.
(4) This only-begotten Son was made incarnate, that He might be lifted up.
(5) This required some mighty motive.It is implied —
1. That the objects were so unworthy, that the method of redeeming them required so much humiliation and sacrifice, that the motive could only be found in the infinite love of God.
2. That this love is not to be described by word, but by action. "God so loved." Here are two loves contending — God's complacent love for His Son and His love of commiseration for the world.
IV. THAT GOD'S OBJECT IN ALL THIS IS BENEVOLENT (ver. 17). The declaration that Christ's object was to save men, given in vers. 15 and 16, is here emphasized. It was His sole object.
1. This is an important reminder to all engaged in promulgating the kingdom, of the spirit which should actuate them (Luke 9:55, 56).
2. An invitation of men's confidence in the gracious intentions of God (Isaiah 55:8, 9).
(A. J. Parry.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: